During these strange and uncertain times, who doesn’t need a bit of David Sedaris humor to brighten your day? David Sedaris is an American comedian, essayist, and radio contributor. He is most well-known for his essays and books that are humorous, thoughtful, and poignant, often all at the same time. And just when you think he must be out of stories to tell, he comes out with another book that’s just as good as the last. So which David Sedaris books should you read if you want to add a bit of cheer to your day? Really, any of them will please, but I would recommend reading the following David Sedaris books, in this order.
To get started, you can't go wrong with one of the most popular David Sedaris books, 2000's Me Talk Pretty One Day. Among other topics, one major focus of this book is Sedaris's issues with speech and language, such as his efforts to learn French after moving to Paris, his brother's profanity, and the lisp he had as a child. One of the standout essays is the title piece, "Me Talk Pretty One Day," in which David hilariously recalls a French class he took in Paris.
Continue your journey through David Sedaris's work with 2004's Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim. This is actually the first David Sedaris book I ever read, and it was a great introduction to the author, but now having read more Sedaris, I'd say reading it after Me Talk Pretty One Day is the way to go. Again, Sedaris covers a lot of ground in this essay collection, but there is a particular focus in this book on the author's childhood in Raleigh, North Carolina and his relationships with his family members. One of the funniest essays in the collection is "Let It Snow," in which Sedaris's mother locks her young children out in the snow.
Next up, try Naked, originally published in 1997. This collection explores stories of Sedaris's youth, from his childhood in North Carolina, to his booze-and-drug-ridden college years, to his young adult years of self-exploration. You'll laugh at the essay "The Drama Bug," when David gets into acting and starts speaking with an English accent.
The next book on the list is a brief intermission from David Sedaris's essays. As the title suggests, 2010's Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk, is David Sedaris's collection of animal-themed stories. This short story collection was inspired by a book of South African mythological stories about anthropomorphic animals. Sedaris read this and decided he wanted to make a more contemporary collection of animal fables. Will the squirrel and the chipmunk's romance work out in the end? You'll have to read these stories to find out.
In 2018's Calypso, Sedaris spends less time looking back at his youth and more time looking at the present and what's to come. In this essay collection, which is described as "beach reading for people who detest beaches," Sedaris reflects on aging, alcoholism and depression, and the loss of his sister, among other dark topics. And yet somehow the humor remains intact, despite the deeply personal, often melancholy, and always frank nature of these topics.
2017's Theft by Finding somehow gets even more personal than Calypso, which is why it makes a great follow-up read to Sedaris's 2018 essay collection. In this book, Sedaris presents to readers actual entries from the diaries that he kept between 1977 and 2002. This book is Sedaris's voice like we've never seen it before, honest and funny as always, but speaking for an audience of one rather than to the general public.
Because you can never have enough stories about animals, Sedaris returns to the animal well in Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls (2013). My favorite essay from this collection is "Understanding Understanding Owls," in which David Sedaris decides to purchase a stuffed owl from a taxidermist shop as a Valentine's Day gift for his boyfriend. Beyond writing about animals, Sedaris covers a lot of topics in this collection, including his first colonoscopy. Yes, you heard me right. No topic is off limits for this author.
For the last book on this list, let's go back to where it all began, with Sedaris's 1994 debut Barrel Fever. The book is divided into two sections. The first section is short fiction and the second half gets into his autobiographical essays. In both the stories and essays, Sedaris reflects on the absurdity of human nature. This collection features the essay that first brought Sedaris public attention: "SantaLand Diaries," the humorous account of Sedaris's time working as a Christmas elf at a Macy's department store. "SantaLand Diaries" is so popular that it has since been adapted for the stage as a one-act play. And while the accuracy of this essay has been called into question, it's definitely still an entertaining read, especially if you're one of those people who doesn't always feel in the Holiday spirit.
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Emily Martin earned her PhD at the University of Southern Mississippi. She works as a contributor for Book Riot and as a blogger/podcaster at Book Squad Goals.